Monday, June 21, 2021

Tragi / Comedy

As Plato said to Aristotle, deeply embedded in the core of tragedy lies comedy. Or was it the other way around? It doesn’t matter because I just made that up. However, I think I am experiencing a seminal smile welling up at the very moment of calamity.

It seems that a happy nation of obese termites has made a meal of our kitchen cabinets. The banquet has apparently been going on for years. When this was brought to the attention of our landlord, she agreed, with a push from my daughter, to replace the lower cabinets....all the wood grain resurfaced  by white paint.

At the same time, she spotted a family of spiders which I had provided with a habitat in the rear of a pantry shelf. Suddenly I become a hero among wood ants and Eensie-Weentsie Aranea. To my landlord, ever-salivating with the thought of eviction, this was strike one.

About two weeks ago while washing Peggy’s compression stockings in my sink I was called away to tend to her urgent need. My ever-diminishing mind failed to hold the two thoughts in my mind at once. Ten minutes later I had flooded the area around the sink. The small rivulet was easily soaked up by five towels. However, water was spotted dripping into the parking area of our apartment house. My inability to multitask was strike two.

We lived without access to our kitchen for eight days as they removed everything including the kitchen sink. I then dislocated my trigger finger, Peggy lost a tooth, the in-home caregiver failed to show up, I lost another 2.5 pounds, Peggy went into atrial fib and I started to dream about living in a cardboard box at the off-ramp.

Today the landlord informed me that the water damage extended eight feet under the floor board and a wall would have to be knocked down. Perhaps this was a good time for a tsunami to wash us away. I have always wondered what a ocean view would look like in Nebraska.

Our insurance company has already turned down the claim. It seems our renter's coverage only applies if the dog we don't  have bites a neighbor. It may also apply if one of Peggy's stuffed animals turns feral.

I forgot why I am writing all this. I think I may have already left this mortal coil and I have landed in some Marx Bros. movie. Bring on Harpo. The only thing that really matters is Peggy’s heart which has, once again, bounced back to sinus rhythm. Her pulse has returned from a fluttering 108 to tranquil 72.

I’ve now been informed that the wall will not need to fall. Three fans and dehumidifiers may be enough but all the furniture (except bed) is to be moved into the living room. Our place is indistinguishable from a condemned building in Aleppo. 

I’m still looking for the humor in all this. The best I can do is laugh or is that a grimace? I wore a white shirt today; when I walked into our new kitchen I vanished.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Crickets and Cicadas

It seems that everyone is talking about them. Well, maybe not everyone but poets have been writing about cicadas since the Greeks and just this morning I overheard someone in the laundry room speaking about crickets. Now I have learned that cicadas are a completely different species from crickets.

You may not care about such things but I imagine a cricket, with no sense of direction, wouldn’t be looked upon kindly in a throng of cicadas. They might serenade him to an early demise.

I always thought cicadas were the highfalutin name used by people who graduated college heavily in debt and needed to show something for all that while the rest of us just say crickets.

Marlon Brando has a great line in On the Waterfront when Eva Marie Saint suggests that he move to the country. He says, Naw, da crickets make me noivous.

He would never have said cicadas. They are related to leafhoppers and spittlebugs (you have to love them for that) and crickets have no such lineage. Neither are they in the locust family in spite of the Bob Dylan song.

Both of them sing as best they can. Only male crickets have that instrument on their wings while male cicadas have their noise-makers on their tummies. Not sure how gender politics may look upon this.

I gave up singing in the 6th grade when I was designated a Listener. Nothing cricket about that. I’m so tone deaf I have to lip-synch Happy Birthday. If I had wings to rub together, I might have been invited to more parties.

The most famous cricket is, of course, Jiminy Cricket which I always took as one of those euphemisms for Jesus Christ along with Jumping Jehoshaphat.

People actually grow crickets in farms. Who knew? They can be used to increase protein intake for the livestock. Sort of like Ensure-Plus. They also make Good Bait… one of my favorite jazz tunes.

In fact, cicadas are on the menu throughout Asia. Beware of what you order from column B. I’m told, they taste like mushy asparagus and can never be mistaken for beef broccoli.

I’m glad we’ve cleared up all these matters. Now I’m ready for those summer nights when a choir of either one or both can chirp me back to my misspent youth, suddenly lit by fireflies in the deep silence when crickets hesitate.*

*Those last two words are taken from Leonard Cohen's Heart With No Companion




Sunday, June 13, 2021

A Day at the Market

Here I am taking my place with the day-old bread and dented cans. You can find me among the damaged goods and packages beyond their shelf-life; anything on this table eighty-eight cents. More and more, lately, I’m able to do less and less.

The shopping cart is my walker. I’m in the line that doesn’t move. The man who waters the lettuce gives me a drink. I’m getting my news from the National Enquirer. Half a mermaid was found in someone’s tuna fish sandwich. Obama is leaving Michelle for 37th time. JFK was cited in some Louisiana swamp.

Life is happening in the express lane. Eyes affixed on apps with bulletins and news breaking into bar codes. We are practically unmasked. Naked in our consumption.

There goes Walt Whitman hearing America singing and smoking leaves of grass. I’m hearing Benny Goodman Sing, Sing, Sing.

There are no women to come and go speaking of Michelangelo or even Joe DiMaggio. Where have you gone, Clifton Fadiman? We need your Information, Please. There really are experts with answers.

Yet, it’s all here. This garden of tulips still breathing Amsterdam air. The Impressionism of the Produce Dept., melons pregnant each with their own palette. Monet, splashing. Jackson Pollock, dripping. Picasso making daffodils from a bunch of bananas. Rauschenberg is smiling at the collage on the conveyor belt beeping away and bagged while Calder studies the balance of the display at the end of a gondola.

There’s a wedding procession coming down two aisles to take their vows at the check stand, reception in the parking lot. Here is the marriage of everything, baked and frozen, fresh and wilted, organic and forbidden. Tops off the carrots. Peel me a grape.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Standing Up

Yes, yes, life is a fountain, an underground spring with hidden sources. And we are detectives seeking them within and without; not only the life-affirming elements but those forces which subvert this process.

I gained a pound this year, all in my nose. I can smell trouble. It’s my middle name. There is a stench of democracy dying in State Houses abetted by the high court while senators cower and bloviate.

Whatcha know Joe?

I don’t know nothin.

Whatcha know Joe,

Tell me somethin.


Joe Manchin, the senator from West Virginia has trouble standing up for what he avows. He is a master equivocator, a spineless man who refuses to rock the boat.

In the dark but brilliant TV series, Death and Nightingales, on Starz, the woman love/hates the man who has betrayed her. He has already dug her grave. Now he is rowing with her to an island; he cannot swim. She dares to stand up in the boat and he is overthrown by the rocking. She stood and asserted her power.

The filibuster remains as a vestige of the Jim Crow South. Recently thirty-five Republicans prevailed over a bi-partisan majority of fifty-five by invoking this retrogressive tool. Senator Joe can't bring himself to reverse this malevolent arithmetic.

Maybe the Red State Democrat is as drowsy as the narrator in Keats’ Ode to A Nightingale, with a longing to flee the world. But democracy like the nightingale is not made for dying. Keats wrestled with the notion of easeful death but emerges. May Joe wake from his intoxication with the power gained from what John Keats called embalmed numbness.